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NATO extends security mission in Libya to protect civilians

NATO will extend its security mission in Libya to protect civilians there against continued threats, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced today.

Rasmussen, who visited New York this week for meetings of the U.N. General Assembly, said NATO’s North Atlantic Council decided today to extend the mandate of Operation Unified Protector, “while keeping the situation under regular review.”

“Together with our partners, NATO has been remarkably successful in fulfilling the mandate of the United Nations,” he said. “But while threats to civilians persist, we will continue to protect them under the mandate” of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2009, and at the request of the National Transition Council, Libya’s interim national government.

NATO began the operations with U.S. military support last spring to protect Libyan civilians during a widespread uprising that drove longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi from power. The National Transition Council was formed in the wake of the rebel fighters’ victory. Representatives of 60 nations attended a “Friends of Libya” summit in Paris on Sept. 1 to discuss the country’s way forward.

“We are determined to continue our mission for as long as necessary, but ready to terminate the operation as soon as possible,” Rasmussen said today. “While the technical rollover is for up to 90 days, the review will allow us to end our tasks at any time.”

NATO’s decisions to end the operations will be done in cooperation with the United Nations and Libyan authorities, he said.

“This decision sends a clear message to the Libyan people,” Rasmussen said. “We will be there for as long as necessary, but not a day longer, while you take your future in your hands to ensure a safe transition to the new Libya.”

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